To the Stars
Address before the Making of Councillor Mark Jepson as Mayor
Felixstowe Town Council – Wednesday 20 May 2020
God give you peace my sisters and brothers.
Those who offer themselves for service in Public Life occasionally find that their office weighs heavily on them. I have wondered, in this time of crisis caused by the Covid 19 pandemic if the Town Clerk might raid the piggy bank so that we could purchase Civic Regalia that does not weigh quite so heavily on the shoulders of our incoming First Citizen?
However, in these challenging times I suspect instead of the Chains of Office being made of a lightweight Carbon Fibre they would need to be woven in bullet proof Kevlar!
When a crisis occurs in community life those who carry the burden of leadership will find, again and again, that they can’t do right for doing wrong. This occurs regardless of the nature of the crisis, the amount of preparation and planning that has gone before, and the political preferences of the leaders or community.
It’s always easier to criticise than to compliment, to throw brickbats than to build up, and to agitate for the triumph of personal rights over community responsibility. And in these times, when Karen on Facebook and Cyril off Twitter are self-proclaimed polymaths and experts in everything, it would seem that Civic Regalia definitely needs to be made out of something that is bullet-proof!
How does a new mayor cope with this office that is a burden before any regalia has been worn? (They are not called Chains of Office for nothing…).
How does a new mayor cope when the usual round of mayoral events and activities in the community have been summarily cancelled, shoved into the calendar of an over-busy 2021, or even abandoned altogether?
How does a new mayor cope when all the usual bargaining and horse-trading that make for a reasonably content Town Council have been swept away because of the need to act speedily and swiftly?
How does a new mayor, remembering that a democracy is a society in which everyone is equally unhappy, aim to please everyone when all the voices that are heard are urgent and worthy of attention?
More importantly how does a new mayor, in the midst of all the clangour made by those who are able to ask for help, hear the faint cries of those who have no voice, no public profile, and no one to speak for them?
The good news is that no mayor does this work alone.
We have a team of staff in our Town Hall that is the envy of many communities. We are blessed with a group of Town Councillors who were elected to office with their sleeves already rolled up, eager to serve, and committed to making our community a better and fairer place.
But crisis is not new to our town. We have met and conquered crisis in the past. We have faced assault from enemies by sea and in the airs, we have conquered flood, we have borne epidemics and buried our dead before – 25% of deaths in Felixstowe in 1918 were not due to the Great War but were victims of Spanish ‘Flu. Out of these crises we have seen our town grow from fishing village, to Seaside Resort, to taking its place on the world stage as home to Britain’s premier Port.
We know how to face and to conquer the challenges life throws at us.
Mark, when you take up the Chains of Office, which are unique amongst all Town Councils, look at the crest of the Royal Air Force that makes up their centrepiece. Holding all the pieces together it is a reminder of the work of the Flying Boats of RAF Felixstowe amongst us and remains a call for our town to imitate them.
The motto on the crest reads;
Per Ardua, Ad Astra – Through adversity to the stars
Friends we live in a time of great adversity. We do not know what shape our community, our nation, our world will be in when this is over. We do not even know if it will ever be finally ‘over’.
We do know this.
If we want our community to remain a place where people grow and prosper,
If we want our community to remain a place of welcome
If we want our community to remain an example to others of how to seek the Common Good
If we want our community to shine like stars, we will have to work for it.
Where the is no Ardua, you will get no Astra.
But then no one in this meeting put their hand up because they wanted an easy life…
The work you wonderful people are involved in is good, even godly work. Yes, others will always say that it could have been done differently and they could have done it better, but I don’t see those ‘others’ in the meeting tonight.
This Ardua, this hard work is what you signed up for.
Theodore Roosevelt, someone who saw his nation through a crisis, said this of hard work;
Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.
And we, tonight are blessed with the opportunity to work hard at work worth doing and, in so doing, win life’s best prize
In Mandarin Script the character for Crisis is made up of two other characters.
One stands for ‘a time of danger’, we are all well aware of that at present.
The other stands for ‘a time of opportunity’ not everyone is aware of that.
As we embark on a new mayoral year in the midst of a year of crisis, it is our special calling, our duty even, to seize this time of opportunity and ensure that the ‘new normal’ community that we build will be one that not only reaches for the stars but becomes a beacon of light for others to follow and guide into a safe harbour.
Thank you Nick, for persevering right through to the end of your mayoralty, refusing to slow down despite the difficulties of this time.
Thank you Mark for putting your hand to the tiller in a time when there are rough seas ahead.
Thank you Town Councillors and Town Hall staff for choosing to put yourselves last and others first.
I want to close with a prayer that many of us will have used as our School Prayer.
Teach us, good Lord,
to serve you as you deserve,
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labour and not to ask for any reward,
save that of knowing that we do your will.
The new Mayor of Felixstowe is Councillor Mark Jepson. His wife Julie Jepson is Mayoress
The Deputy Mayor is Councillor Sharon Harkin.
The Mayor’s chosen charities for the year are:
Felixstowe Carnival Committee and Felixstowe Citizens Advice Bureau Please be generous in your support of them.